MOVER: Virendra Gupta was attracted by the glamour of the diplomatic service. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE
MOVER: Virendra Gupta was attracted by the glamour of the diplomatic service. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

INDIAN High Commissioner to SA Virendra Gupta tells Loni Prinsloo about his first job - at India's state bank

What was your first job and how did you go about getting it?

Probationary officer at State Bank of India (largest Indian bank). Selection was through a competitive exam.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of that first job?

Salary, which was several times larger than my monthly allowance at the university.

What is the most valuable money or career lesson you learnt from that first job?

Experience in financial management at the bank has proved useful subsequently as well.

How big was your first pay cheque and what was the first thing you bought with it?

My pay cheque was reasonably handsome and the first thing was a celebration with friends with dinner and a movie.

Did you stick with your original job/career plan or did you diversify into different career avenues/types of jobs?

After spending nearly six months with the bank I switched to the Indian diplomatic service.

Would you choose a different first job if you had the option today?

I was quite happy to have had initial grounding in a bank.

What was your first boss like?

Very friendly and supportive. He took a keen interest in my training.

What advice would you give first-time job seekers?

Sincerity and hard work always pay off.

Would you encourage youngsters to become diplomats?

Absolutely. It is a wonderful career. You get the opportunity to represent your country abroad and get exposed to different peoples and cultures.

What or who inspired you most in your career path?

The glamour of the diplomatic service - and an opportunity to see the world.

What are some of your favourite countries to work in and why?

All my postings have been enjoyable, but I recall with particular fondness the following three assignments: Indian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, where I served as Rapporteur of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid during 1988-91; Tel Aviv, where I was sent to open the Indian Embassy in 1992 and subsequently served as Deputy Chief of Mission; and Dar-es-Salaam from 1998 to 2001 - my first posting as ambassador. All challenging and greatly rewarding.

My focus was on commercial work and we brought India to the position of Tanzania's largest trading partner.

What has been the most satisfying aspect of your career to date?

I have had a fairly diverse range of responsibilities, which is really essential for a diplomat's overall grooming, and I enjoyed all these opportunities equally.

Name one other job or career that you would not mind doing?

An artist, but that would require creative skills.

*This article was first published in Sunday Times: Money & Careers